We’ve all been there: We start the morning with the best intentions to send our children off to school with a loving kiss and some calm words of encouragement. But before we know it, the house is filled with yelling nagging chaos as we try to get everyone out the door on time.
My family has honed these four simple tips over time, and they work wonders for having smooth mornings for everyone.
Make sure bedtime is early enough
A common suggestion to reduce morning stress is to make sure you get up early enough, but at our house, we’ve found the trick is to get to bed early enough.
A growing body of research says that school age kids aren’t getting enough sleep. Kids need an awful lot of sleep – our 8-year-old seems to only need about 9 hours, but our 11-year-old needs 10 or 11.
Our approach is to avoid using alarms. If the kids need an alarm to get up in time, then they aren’t getting enough sleep, and they need to get to bed earlier. And they are significantly easier to deal with in the morning if they wake up on their own.
Plan ahead for breakfast and lunch
I find the typical “plan ahead” advice is to do things like pick out clothes the night before, pack up backpacks, lay out shoes, etc. For us, those things weren’t a problem. For us, breakfast and lunch are the problem. We haven’t solved it 100%, but on mornings when we do have breakfast and lunch planned out ahead of time, our mornings are much easier.
We have a few go-to breakfasts that work well for our family. My favorite is breakfast muffins. Make them ahead and add some fresh fruit in the morning and breakfast is a snap. My husband likes to make bacon on his mornings. This microwave bacon tray lets him quickly cook a few slices of bacon for him and the kids – and somehow bacon puts everyone in the right frame of mind for the day.
For lunch, we did some brainstorming over the summer to figure out how to avoid the stress of coming up with something the kids would actually eat – the PB&J and turkey sandwiches weren’t cutting it any more. I bought this awesome bento box called a Yumbox for each of them. It was expensive, but totally worth it in my mind. Then we talked about what foods the like and would be willing to eat, keeping in mind the need for a healthy balance. They use this Lunch Box Checklist to remind them of their choices and make sure they pack a healthy lunch.
I keep all of the foods they’ve agreed to eat on hand, and they pretty happily fill each compartment with healthy choices every morning.
Make a list
For us, this one was the life changer. Kids are able to do a lot for themselves at a pretty young age, but they are NOT able to remember all the things they have to do. And honestly, who can blame them? Once we made the list, we discovered that even my 8-year-old has fourteen things he has to remember to do each morning.
Having a list lets my kids be independent, and even more importantly, it stops me from having to keep everyone’s lists in my head, which usually resulted in me barking out orders and reminders all morning long.
With their lists from The Trip Clip, our mornings are often shockingly smooth. There is no yelling, no reminding, no scrambling. Once we eat breakfast everyone heads off to do the things on their list.
Offer an incentive
There’s nothing wrong with offering an incentive (ok, bribe) to help get all the way through the list. Let’s face it, 14 things is a big accomplishment! At our house, this incentive is in the form of TV or video game time. Anyone who gets their list done with time to spare is free to have some screen time until it’s time to head to school. Usually it’s only 5-10 minutes, and it’s totally worth it to see them racing through their checklists with no reminders needed.